Pressure Sensors To Help Amputees

New Pressure Sensor Could Help Prevent Sores For People With Amputated Limbs


Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a new pressure sensor system that could help prevent sores among amputees.

Currently, many people with missing limbs suffer from painful sores when their artificial limbs rub against their stump, although this has improved in recent years due to technological progression in materials used for prosthetics.

This can prevent a number of problems, including secondary infections that can result in further amputations or even septicemia, although this is rare and the main issue is with pain resulting from the condition.

But now, researchers believe they have made progress in making pressure sores for amputees a thing of the past, reports the BBC.

Scientists inserted a sensor into a small pad that is put between an artificial limb and a stump. The device then sends messages back to researchers, who can see if any adjustments are needed to avoid discomfort or pain.

But the University of Southampton is keen not to limit the sensor's usefulness to clinical settings and is planning to develop a system of traffic light alerts for smartphones to tell users when they are in danger of getting sores.

Dr Liudi Jiang, from the University of Southampton, who is leading the project, said: "A large number of lower limb amputees may suffer from nerve damage and they have reduced skin sensation.

"That means they don't feel the pain or the tissue injury as effectively as we do. And it may be too late, because once that soft tissue is compromised it could lead to infection and could be really serious."

In 2000, a report by the Audit Commission found that nearly one in four of the UK's 50,000 lower limb amputees did not use artificial limbs as often as they would like because of pain and discomfort - so it is important this issue is resolved, as improving the quality of life of this minority group is an NHS priority.

Expert Opinion
This sensor invention is groundbreaking and could have a huge impact, not only on amputees, but hundreds of other people at risk from pressure sores such as the elderly and wheelchair users.

“We see on a regular basis the devastating effects pressure sores can have on patients, often caused by care providers not offering the correct pressure alleviating equipment or not recognising the early stages of a sore.

“The sensor is a quick and easy way to identify when a sore is developing which will highlight to staff, or individuals managing their own care, that action is needed to prevent it from worsening.

“This could help to protect the safety of thousands of patients and we hope it will be welcomed by hospitals, care homes and other care facilities as quickly as possible.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner